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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Here is a food for thought for the powers-that-be in the State. Following the lack of accessibility to cheap protein supplement, poor in backward and tribal districts in the State are banking on wild mushrooms and dead cattle/goat meat that is leading to rise in food poisoning and Anthrax cases in Odisha.

Though the Odisha Government has launched with much fanfare the Odisha Food Security Act with an objective to ensure food security of 34 lakh more families, a reality check reveals how many villages in the backward and tribal districts of the State for want of nutrition bank on wild mushrooms and dead cattle, which even have resulted in outbreaks of Anthrax cases there.

According to the data available with the Integrated Disease Surveillance Centre here, the State  till July end in 2019 had reported around 50 food poisoning and around half a dozen anthrax cases.

Though outbreak of such cases have come from across the State, majority of outbreaks have been reported from tribal and backward districts like Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Kalahandi and Sundergarh.

It needs mentioning here is the district disease surveillance centres declare a disease as an outbreak, when it affects either an area (village/wards) or a community (SC/ST) or the both.

An analysis of the reports at the nodal surveillance centre here suggest how villages in districts like Koraput, Rayagada and Nabarangpur have witnessed outbreaks of food poisoning owing to consumption of wild mushrooms collected from nearby jungles.

Reports show how villages in the districts of Koraput and Sundergarh have reported Anthrax outbreak in June-July this year owing to consumption of meat of dead cattle and goats.

Even, Subarnapur, grouped among 250 backward districts nationally in 2006, has reported food poisoning outbreak owing to consumption of castor fruits by children from the wild.

The disease outbreaks in such tribal and backward districts give some subtle hints to the policy planners of the State.

As almost all the districts are high in poverty, poor lot here in search of proteinaceous food can't afford the dals or the meat. And they rely on wild mushrooms and dead cattle or goats to meet their needs. Lack of awareness regarding food hygiene and safety in the villages of such districts make them vulnerable to bouts of food poisoning.

The fact of pertinence here is it is these districts, especially Kashipur in Rayagada, that have rocked the national headlines for mango-kernel poisoning deaths in early 2000s. Tribals there for lack of staple food had depended on mango kernel, which in turn led to food poisoning deaths. As mango seed kernels contain significant amount of tannins, it has a deleterious effect when consumed in large quantities.

The bouts of food poisoning in tribal and backward districts reveal very little change in nutritional security there. The neighbouring Chhattisgarh government supplies dal via PDS to BPL card holders.

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